April 2021 – Parshat Shmini

Another year, another Pesach has come and go. The build up to Pesach often feels endless with all the preparations, cleaning and cooking and then BOOM, the 8 days pass and it feels like the year is just flying by! It was great to see so many of you over Pesach at the Ark, over what I am sure most of you felt to be a very meaningful festival after the lockdowns last year. I was happy to see so many of you come as we return to COVID-normal.

This past week I also had the good fortune of undertaking a whirlwind 20-hour round trip to Noosa to officiate the wedding Ella and Danny Finkelstein. One of the most rewarding parts of being a Rabbi is being there for congregants during their key life moments – the good and the difficult. So it was wonderful to celebrate a beautiful simcha with congregants with the added appreciation that just a few months ago, in peak COVID lockdown, the privilege of interstate travel and in-person weddings with more than two guests would not have been possible!

It also excites me to welcome Her Excellency the Consul General of the United Arab Emirates Dr. Nariman Almulla to our Synagogue this Friday night. The newly signed Abraham Accords have reshaped the Middle East as more countries normalise relations with Israel. We are proud to be the first Synagogue in Melbourne to host Dr. Almulla and look forward to hearing about how the newly established relationship between Israel and the UAE will continue to develop as well as exciting things that will be in the pipeline because of this Accord.

This week we also read Parshat Shmini, which contains the laws of Kashrut. The Torah outlines the different requirements for each animal. Fish must have fins and scales. Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves. Birds of prey are not permitted to be eaten. Creepy crawlies and bugs are not Kosher. The list of prohibitions is long, and the Jewish people are provided these instructions which, until this very day, govern our eating and food consumption.

One of the most complicated areas of Jewish law is Kashrut. Sometimes, keeping Kosher can feel like a burden, especially in places where there is scant Kosher food or when travelling, which may mean that you will inevitably miss out on some of the local cultural cuisine.

However, while Kashrut itself is in the class of Jewish laws that are a “Chok” a law that does not have an easily understood reason, I personally enjoy keeping Kosher, despite some of the associated hardships. Food is integral to a person’s survival and plays a central role in a person’s day to day life.
However, keeping Kosher forces one to have a level of consideration during all their meals and have a sense of mindfulness about the day. When you eat Kosher, by default you infuse a little bit of spirituality and mindfulness into every day.

In the busy world we live in, it can be difficult to find time to pray each day, have spiritual interactions or even find time to be grateful to G-d for all the good things that we have. With little children and caring responsibilities, careers and the burden of the day-to-day grind, it can often be hard to infuse meaning into our busy lives before the day disappears away. The very act of keeping Kosher helps you to sanctify a mundane act of eating and snacking to a higher spiritual place. It is for this reason that keeping Kosher is so special to me. It helps me to infuse meaning and a little bit of spirituality into my day. I don’t necessarily think it is an easy thing to do, but I find the rewarding aspects of this Mitzvah outweigh the FOMO of new food (and an expanded waistline!).